Five more lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer Inc on behalf of individuals who died or suffered severe physical injuries as a result of a suicide or attempted suicide after using the anti-smoking drug Chantix. The lawsuits were filed in New York State Court, in the Supreme Court of New York, New York County.
Chantix (varencicline tartrate) quickly became a popular drug to help people quit smoking after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in 2006. The drug affects nicotine receptors in the brain, which reduces nicotine cravings and helps people to quit smoking. However, a number of serious and life threatening side effects have been associated with Chanitx, including an increased propensity for depression, suicide and abnormal behavior.
In November 2007, the FDA initiated a review of the medication after receiving reports of at least 39 Chantix suicide deaths and nearly 500 reports of suicidal thoughts and behavior among users. Pfizer has since updated the warning label several times to add information about possible suicidal side effects and other psychological problems. Research has also discovered a possible association between use of the drug and the development of diabetes, severe skin reactions known as Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Syndrome (TENS) and seizures or blackouts, leading to accidents and falls.
The first known Chantix lawsuit was filed in the first week of July in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis by Linda Collins, the widow of David Collins, who committed suicide in January 2008 after starting the medication in October 2007. The lawsuit alleges that Pfizer’s failure to provide adequate warning about the drug’s side effects led to Collins’ death, as he had no history of mental illness.
A second lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Brian Kline, who was hospitalized in August 2007 following an episode of manic and violent psychosis allegedly induced by the use of Chantix. Two other lawsuits have been filed by Chantix users so far.
The five Chantix lawsuits filed in New York are the first known state court complaints filed against Pfizer.
Lawyers throughout the country are investigating hundreds of other potential Chantix lawsuits on behalf of users who have killed themselves or suffered substantial injury from an attempted suicide. Most attorneys working on these cases anticipate that as additional federal lawsuits are filed, they will likely be consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, a special body within the U.S. Federal Court system, has the power to transfer similar pending lawsuits filed in multiple districts to a single judge in a single jurisdiction for pre-trial proceedings. If they do not settle or otherwise resolve, the cases are then remanded back to the original court where they were filed for trial. It is common for complex product liability and pharmaceutical lawsuits, such as the lawsuits against Pfizer, to be consolidated for pretrial litigation.